Many companies will use one or two rounds of phone interviews as a way of pre-screening candidates. The phone interview saves employers time and expenses associated with inviting candidates for in-person interviews. Plus, it allows employers and job to get to know each other without the need for travel. The phone interview is an indispensable tool for companies looking to hire new staff. But like any other tool, if it’s used improperly, it can do more harm than good. In order to make the most of any phone interview, employers will want to make sure to include the following must-ask questions:
1. Required Skills & Experience.
Since phone interviews are designed to help narrow the field of candidates you wish to interview in-person, it’s critical that you determine whether the candidate is qualified for the job in the first place. Of course, your first indication of this comes from their cover letter and resume. But you should always look to confirm and extend your grasp of the job seeker’s qualifications in the phone interview. If, for example, the position requires computer programming skills, and the candidate’s resume lists “computer skills,” you should ask for clarification. The same goes for experience. If the position requires at least two years of relevant professional experience, and it’s not obvious from their resume that they have it, ask the candidate how many years they’ve been working in the field and in which capacities.
2. Applicable Skills & Experience.
Once you’ve established that a candidate is in fact qualified for the position you have available, it’s time to figure out if they’d be good at it. How? Well, first you should ask about applicable skills and experience. Often, a candidate’s resume will tell you what kind of work they did in the past, but it may not be so illuminating about how those skills and experiences would enable the candidate to be an A-player on your team. This is where the time-honored question, “What makes you the best candidate for this position?” comes into play. It cuts to the core of applicable skills and experience, and will help you judge the candidate’s performance potential.
Nowadays, savvy employers give “soft skills” equal weight to “hard skills” in evaluating potential hires. Hard skills are measurable skills like typing speed, knowledge of a certain kind of software or machinery, etc. Soft skills include intangibles like sociability, leadership qualities, and character. In order to arrive at a candidate’s soft skills during the phone interview, you should ask them what they hope to contribute to your company. In answering this must-have question, you should expect and/or push candidates to move beyond hard skills to talk about how their soft skills will contribute to a better and more productive workplace.
4. Candidate Questions.
“Is there anything you’d like to ask me?” This classic question-within-a-question usually concludes the interview, often not in a helpful way. But, given a slight rewrite, this question can not only offer powerful insight into the candidate you’re evaluating, it becomes a must-have. Be more specific. For example, you could ask the interviewee if there is “anything more you’d like to know about the job or company?” Instead of inadvertently focusing the attention on you as the interviewer, framing the question like this places emphasis where it should be: on the position. Candidates will feel much more comfortable broaching potentially tricky subjects like salary or workplace culture if you give them a soft opening like this. Plus, you might get a sense of where their own mind lies—i.e., their more personal concerns—with regard to the company and the position.